“A Case of Disappering Prayer”
“The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. It doesn’t matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father’s.
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, “My house shall be called a house of preaching”?
Does it ever say, “My house shall be called a house of music”?
Of course not.
The Bible does say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” [Isaiah 56:7] Preaching, music, the reading of the Word—these things are fine; I believe in and practice all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God’s dweling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,
—Jim Cymbala, p. 71
Pastor Cymbala is a prayer warrior and his life and ministry reflects a deep trust in God through prayer. Unfortunately, he is an exception rather than the norm in the body of Christ.
Jim Cymbala knows that the church building in our era is not equivalent to the Temple under the Old Covenant. But the Temple was a gathering place for believing Israel and in some ways it is paralleled in the gathering places we call churches. (Yes, I know, the body of Christ is the real Church and no building can properly be what the New Testament calls the Church.)
Nevertheless, it is impossible to believe that any gathering of believers in the resurrected One wouldn’t have prayer as an integral part of their activity. At least, that is what I think first century Christians would say. But in the modern Church and the places were it meets, it seems that we have forgotten how to pray. Prayer is pushed to the fringes, given little thought, slapped into our liturgies almost as an after thought. Prayer is often the least thought about element in the service after the proverbial bugaboo of “announcements.”
One year, in a clergy association gathering in Bolingbrook, an interim pastor at a Presbyterian Church in our community came to our meeting. It was during a time when we were rotating responsibility for leading our time of prayer among us and my Presbyterian friend’s time arrived. It was wonderful. The man knew how to pray. More particularly, he knew how to lead pastoral prayer that was more than just personal or conversational prayer, or just from his own heart. It was more than personal. His was the prayer of a shepherd who understood the gravity of talking to God about the hearts and needs of others. He wrapped his words around us, and figuratively took our hands, and walked us gently into the throne room of God and showed us the face of Christ.
“His was the prayer of a shepherd who understood the gravity of talking to God about the hearts and needs of others.”
After the meeing, I approached him and asked if he might be willing to do a seminar for all of us on the art of pastoral prayer. Unfortunately, he was in and out of our community before it could be arranged. I have regretted it to this day.
That’s one issue, the lack of pastoral prayer in the modern church.
The second and third issues in “A CASE OF DISAPPEARING PRAYER” are related to congregational prayer, both corporate prayer together and individual prayer in private. But I’m at 500 words already and will pick this up later this week. The title of the post still hangs in the air.
Does your church pray?
It’s an important question and the answer might tell us more about what is wrong with the American Church than a million dollar study.